Sebastian Vettel insists Ferrari’s priority lies with the best interests of the team and not individual drivers following its early use of team orders in the 2019 Formula 1 season.

Ferrari has imposed team orders on its drivers at each of the opening three races of 2019, telling new signing Charles Leclerc to hold station behind Vettel in Australia and Bahrain, before instructing the Monegasque to allow Vettel throw into third place during the early stages of last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

New team boss Mattia Binotto has already made it clear that Ferrari would prioritise Vettel in “50-50” situations if required in a bid to avoid similar indecision over its team orders policy in recent years.

“The priority always lies within the team, so I think Charles is aware, I am aware that we are driving for the team,” Vettel said.

“We are fighting for our own race, but usually with this kind of stuff, it’s never pleasant, but it’s a bit also what goes around comes around.

“We have so many races, only time will tell whether we did something right or wrong. At the time, you always try to do what is right.

“I can see that it’s not easy for anyone involved, but as I said, we try to obviously get stronger and fight Mercedes which are currently a little bit ahead.

“We need to understand why we are behind and work on that so we don’t have to worry about these things.”

The four-time world champion, who sits just one point clear of Leclerc in the championship, said he has become frustrated by the media’s repeated line of questioning on the subject and believes Ferrari has been unfairly represented due to “poor journalism”.

Asked in China if using team orders is the best way to win the title, Vettel replied: “I don’t know. Ask maybe Lewis [Hamilton].

“I think Mercedes has been in a very different situation, but I think it’s not the first time that we’ve seen something like that.

“Obviously as Mattia said, we try to do everything as a team. Last week, or two weeks ago, Charles was faster, and it was quite straightforward, maybe a bit easier to pass in Bahrain.

“But I think the upsetting thing after the race is that we didn’t manage to finish third and fourth. Obviously I want to be ahead of Charles, he wants to be ahead of me, that’s the name of the game.

“I’m not keen to expand much further, because it’s always a bit difficult, especially what you make out of the answer afterwards.

Asked if there was a specific story he had in mind, Vettel said: “Not really, it’s just poor journalism in my point of view.

“I don’t think it’s frustrating. It’s just a pain to answer the same questions over and over.

“But I’m not a journalist to judge, so you shouldn’t take my judgement personally.”

FEATURE: The self-inflicted dilemma facing Ferrari